Friday, August 28, 2015

Daring Greatly Together

Dear Cinco Family,

This time last year, if someone had told me that I should open myself to failure more often, I would tell them they had lost their minds.  But over the course of the last three or four months, born from a variety of experiences and opportunities, a trip to Iowa, and a book called Daring Greatly, my perspective has changed.  I come to you today as a very proud and excited principal taking an opportunity to begin a new journey. My hope is this blog will showcase the great things that happen at our school both in and out of the classroom each day.  I will be inviting teachers and students to share their stories. Stories that lift us up. Stories that cause us to pause and reflect.  Stories that challenge us.  I may even throw in a story or two myself.

This journey began with a trip to a relatively small town in Iowa called Bettendorf.  Unfortunately, this trip to Iowa did not involve a corn farm turning into a magical baseball field whispering, "If you build it, he will come."  It involved a small town and an inspiring high school.  At Bettendorf High School I saw great things happening for its students.  I saw them showing off their pride.  I saw that they had a voice in their education.  I saw they recognized their history and what it meant to be a Bulldog.  I also saw a town that celebrated success at every turn possible.  I was impressed that this school was making such an impact on its students and its community.  So impressed that I challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone and try new things...scary writing a blog.

As fate would have it, on the plane ride back to Katy, I read the national bestselling book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, a professor of sociology at The University of Houston.  Without giving you an in-depth review, I would tell you this book is about understanding vulnerability, the deep need to feel connected as human beings, and the desire to live a "whole-hearted" life.  According to Dr. Brown, we have to put ourselves out there and let ourselves be seen in order to find fulfillment.  

Now I won't lie. After reading the book, I wanted to hide from the challenges I had just set for myself.  The thought of putting myself out there and potentially failing did not feel motivational, inspirational, or even mildly pleasant.  A loop of "what if?" ran through my mind.  What if something goes wrong?  What if people don't like what we're doing?  What if no one even reads this blog? But those kinds of what ifs can produce a very counter-productive conversation.  They can stifle creativity, growth, and certainly a willingness to "dare greatly."

The title of the book itself intrigued me.  Dr. Brown’s idea for the title came from Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena speech.  It is definitely one of my all-time favorites.  I even recall putting it up in my classroom the very first year I taught, many moons ago.  If you are not familiar with this powerful speech, google it when you have a moment.  It is certainly worth a read.  It has even made its way into mainstream advertising for an American luxury car-maker.  I would argue that the best line in the speech is the one that inspired Dr. Brown’s title.  Roosevelt said credit should be given to the man "who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

This blog is about the community of Cinco Ranch daring greatly together.  So many great things happen here.  Some of which you know. Some of which you never hear.  There are also challenges and struggles.  Again, some you know.  Some you don't.  My goal is to celebrate those great things and give voice to our struggles.  To bring connection.  Our department chairs very recently remarked, "the only failure is in not trying."  I want to remind our students, staff, and parents, and community of those memorable words: "if [we] fail, at least [we] fail while daring greatly."  So Cinco Ranch, let's jump into the arena together and make our school "The Best High School in America."